The Teeny Ghosts

Once I had a friend with a rollicking head of hair and shining eyes and an air of mischief that came from the turned-up nose and the near-laughter look on her face. Maeve saw no reason not to love and be loved, and she once confided in me that she had been pregnant seven times by six different boyfriends.

Seven times! I found that fact astonishing. I was young and did not know quite what to think. I knew that the news seemed very dreadful. But she faced me down with words that combined a kind of careless innocence with bravado.

For a while I could not glance at her without imagining that a draggle-tailed line of tiny corpses followed her steps. The idea haunted me obsessively. The little ghosts were woebegone things, forlorn, bulb-headed infants with their eyes closed, wearing diapers and white onesies with the snaps undone so that each dragged a little train behind. Some of them sucked at a thumb. Their little arms were drawn upwards, as if they needed to hug themselves in the absence of any mother love. They were bowlegged, and walked on the sides of their feet. Their half-exposed bellies were as round and pale as cultured pearls.

I lost sight of Maeve for a quarter-century or more. When I met her again with husband in tow, I was surprised to find that he was as small as a boy of eleven or twelve, and that she had no children at all.


Marly Youmans

Marly Youmans is the author of fourteen books of poetry and fiction. Her latest poetry collection is The Book of the Red King, following the narrative of a transforming Fool, a mysterious Red King, and the ethereal Precious Wentletrap (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2019.) Her latest novel is Charis in the World of Wonders.

'The Teeny Ghosts' has 1 comment

  1. January 12, 2021 @ 8:57 am Chip Williams

    While I recognized her name as related to writing, it wasn’t until I read Marley Youmans’ poem, “Caer’s Dream,” in this month’s issue of First Things (rhyming!) that I was interested in what she writes. I am a man in my eighth decade, without a literary degree. I have come to detest public media for its godless secularism. Last year at this time, 9:00 am Monday, would have been at my office by now. Thus qualified for being unqualified, in Ms. Youmans’ story I imagine Mauve’s husband is her dead baby (all of them). And she holds that small man in her lap, not unlike Mary symbolized in the Pieta; loving him and mourning him at the same time.


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